Even in the best of circumstances, the holiday season can be stressful at times. And this year, many people are having a particularly tough time.
However, it’s possible to feel joy and gratitude in the midst of worry, sadness, and even anger. Human beings are capable of complex emotions, and finding gratitude in stressful times is good for you, both mentally and physically.
This quick activity is a great mindfulness technique for eliciting joy and gratitude. Give it a try and see what happens.
Step One: Notice what you’re thinking about. If you are worried, don’t try to push your concerns away, but don’t focus on them either. Just recognize that you do have concerns and they are real.
Step Two: Consider what’s happening right now. Do you need to take immediate action on any of your concerns? If there’s something you need to do right now, go do it. If not, acknowledge that your concerns are for the past or the future but are not present in this immediate moment.
Step Three: Focus on this moment – not on what occurred in the past or what might occur in the future, but simply on what is present right now.
Look around until you notice something that is interesting or pleasant, and then focus your attention completely on it for about 60 seconds. Take your time and notice the details – the colors… the shapes… the texture… What do you particularly appreciate? Look more closely at what is most attractive or interesting about it.
Take a deep breath and recognize how good it feels to be present in the moment, appreciating what is here. And say a silent thank you.
You’ll find that even just 60 seconds renews your energy and sense of connection.
Even though this is so easy to do when you’re intentional, we don’t do it naturally because we’re hardwired to focus on what’s negative. According to neuroscientist Rick Hanson, our brains are “Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity.” But if you do this simple activity frequently, those 60 seconds will add up. And, as an additional benefit, you’ll also begin to rewire your brain for positivity.